Alana Watson

Ohio Valley ReSource reporter

Former student intern Alana Watson rejoined WKU Public Radio in August 2020 as the Ohio Valley ReSource economics reporter. Watson is a 2017 graduate of Western Kentucky University and has a B.A. in Broadcasting Journalism. She also has her M.A in Communications from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. Watson is a Nashville native and has interned at WPLN-FM in Nashville. In 2019, she won a Tennessee AP Broadcaster & Editors Award for her sports feature on Belmont University's smallest point guard. While at WKU Public Radio she won Best College Radio Reporter in 2016 from the Kentucky Ap Broadcasters Association for her work on post-apartheid South Africa. Watson was previously at Wisconsin Public Radio as thier 2nd Century Fellow where she did general assignment and feature reporting in Milwaukee.

Ways to Connect

DNC video

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to reinforce the nation’s refugee resettlement efforts after a dramatic decrease in admissions under President Trump. A Bowling Green-based refugee resettlement agency is hoping to help many more people once Biden becomes president.

Biden wants to set the refugee admission’s cap to 125,000 and then gradually increase that number over time. Under the Obama administration, 110,000 refugees were allowed to resettle. The Trump administration cut admissions to 15,000, the lowest number of refugees coming into the U.S. on record.

Albert Mbanfu, the executive director of the International Center in Bowling Green, said while Biden’s plan is promising, it won’t have an immediate impact. He said due to the limited number of refugees currently being allowed into the country, the resettlement process has slowed drastically.


Rebecca Kiger

New research shows that deaths due to the mix of substance abuse and suicides known as “diseases of despair” declined slightly in 2018. But the mortality rates throughout the Ohio Valley and Appalachian region are still higher than the national average.

A report from the Appalachian Regional Commission found that overall mortality rates from diseases of despair, which include suicide, liver disease, and overdoses, decreased between 2017 and 2018 — the first decline since 2012.

But the research, done by the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis and Center for Rural Health Research at East Tennessee State University, shows those mortality rates are still disproportionately higher for Appalachia compared to the rest of the United States.


PEW/Associated Press/Ted A. Warren

Much of the Ohio Valley saw historic levels of voter turnout in the 2020 election, as election officials expanded voting options to reduce the risk from coronavirus. 

Compared to the 2016 election, voter turnout for the 2020 general election increased slightly in Kentucky and Ohio, while West Virginia —  which had some of the nation’s lowest turnout in 2016 — saw a substantial jump, bringing the state up to just above the historic national average.   

A data analysis by the Ohio Valley ReSource compared the percentage of registered voters casting ballots this year to turnout from 2016. The analysis shows West Virginia turnout jumped by 5 points to 62.5%, compared to 57.4% in 2016.

 


Some voters in Ohio and Kentucky expressed concern that poll workers were advising them that  “Black Lives Matter” attire was not allowed in polling locations. But according to both state’s laws on the subject, BLM clothing is perfectly fine to wear while casting your ballot. 

 

The voters shared their concerns using the tipline operated by ProPublica’s Electionland project.  

 

Political campaign attire isn’t allowed to be worn at the polls in the Ohio Valley. Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia have laws prohibiting people from wearing anything with a candidate’s name, campaign slogan or logo, or political party affiliation. But elections experts say that doesn’t apply to items bearing “Black Lives Matter.” 

Devine Carama

This fall, Lexington, Kentucky, activist and artist Devine Carama launched a different kind of road trip across his home state. He visited a dozen cities and towns, from Pikeville, in the state’s Appalachian east, to Paducah, near where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi. He carried a sign that said “I’ll walk 400 miles if you promise to vote.”

He wants to bring attention to what he says is the most important election of our lifetimes and to open up conversations about why people do or don’t vote. 

 

“That was another kind of, you know, motivational piece to this,” he said. “How can we inspire people to not just register, but actually go out and vote?”

 

 


Glynis Board

The Appalachian Regional Commission is investing another $43.3 million in communities affected by the downturn of the coal industry. The latest POWER grants from the ARC will support 51 projects in coal-dependent communities, including over $15 million for 20 projects in the Ohio Valley. 

The investments are going towards projects that will support broadband expansion, workforce development, entrepreneurship opportunities, and substance abuse recovery in the region’s coal-impacted communities. 

 


Julius Csotonyi

The fossils of at least six new species of sharks and close relatives have been identified at Mammoth Cave National Park. A team of paleontologists, cave specialists, and park rangers revealed their findings on Wednesday, National Fossil Day

The fossils were found in the late 1990s in remote locations in the cave, but weren’t identified until last November. At least 40 different species of sharks have since been identified, including the 6 new species. 

These newly discovered sharks and other specimens lived over 340 million years ago according to paleontologist John-Paul Hodnett. Back then, Mammoth Cave was a vast body of water. The cave started to form between 12 million and 14 million years ago. The cave is known for many ice age mammal fossils and ancient marine organisms. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Refugee resettlement officials in Bowling Green believe the international community should be among the first to have access to a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available. 

Executive director of the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, Albert Mbanfu, said the refugee community is at high risk because of their living arrangements and because many are essential workers. Most refugees that the International Center has helped place in jobs were working in processing plants where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred. 


Lisa Autry

Refugee resettlement in Kentucky has been significantly lower over the past 12 months than what was seen during the previous federal fiscal year. The number of refugees arriving in the Commonwealth has decreased by more than 50 percent according to the Warren County based International Center of Kentucky. 

The United States temporary suspended resettlement programs in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Center of Kentucky based didn’t have any new arrivals from March until early August. This year, the center was only able to resettle 162 refugees during the federal fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30. Many of those refugees are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. 


Creative Commons

The coronavirus pandemic has forced elections officials to expand options for voters in November’s general election. This means you will have more ways to vote, including mail-in ballots and early in-person voting. But it also means many people have questions about how to vote. Here are answers to some common questions about voter registration, voting by mail, and early voting in person.

WKU Public Radio

Governors, Secretaries of State, and other state and local election officials throughout the Ohio Valley are preparing for an unprecedented election during a global pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced local governments to change practices that have been the same for decades, and to do so in a highly charged political environment. 

Some of the main changes are safety precautions suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State officials in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia are ensuring residents feel comfortable voting in person if they choose to, while making adjustments for those who are concerned about contracting COVID-19. 


Ryan Van Velzer

An online tool created by a Kentucky non-profit advocacy group is helping protect renters from eviction during the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a moratorium on evictions until the end of the year to help people battling economic hardships due to the pandemic, as well as prevent additional spread of COVID-19.

The CDC’s eviction protections are only available to people that qualify and after they fill out a declaration. Protection is not automatic. The CDC’s order applies to all renters, including those living in apartments and homes.


thinkstock

A University of Kentucky law professor says he still has concerns about the upcoming November election, even though the state saw strong voter turnout during its recent primary

All of Kentucky’s 120 counties are required to create election plans for November 3. These plans will include early voting locations, in-person voting sites, and the number of poll workers.

County election officials also have to prepare to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines for social distancing, sanitation, and have enough personal protective equipment. 

UK law professor Joshua Douglas believes the commonwealth is approaching the election correctly. The state will have options for mail-in voting, early voting, and casting ballots in-person on Election Day.


Creative Commons

A Kentucky doctor wants to improve the overall health of the state by increasing the tobacco tax.

Dr. Patrick Withrow, a retired cardiologist and the Director of Outreach at Baptist Health Paducah, believes that raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes by one dollar could help reduce smoking in adolescents, pregnant women, and low-income populations.

“This is an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone,” Dr. Withrow told WKU Public Radio. “And baby steps are important. If we can’t get all we want, we at least need to start. The most important reason we do this for is the health of Kentuckians.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/Ed Schipul

Kentucky smokers now have greater access to resources that can help them kick the habit.

A new state law now in effect requires insurance coverage of all forms of tobacco cessation services recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. That includes smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling, group health education, and federally approved anti-smoking medications.

Adam Haley, Director of Public Policy for the Kentucky Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, says the changes present a great opportunity for more smokers to get help.

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